Before Game of Thrones was a pop culture phenomenon, it was just another genre show struggling to get made. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss spent almost four years getting the pilot episode off the ground, including seven months spent filming overseas. So when the final product came back, it should have been meticulous.

Instead, it nearly sunk the show before it even began. Over 90% of the pilot episode had to be reshot, with several characters recast — as was the case with Michelle Fairley taking over from Jennifer Ehle as Catelyn Stark — or cut entirely. The unaired original pilot has become almost mythical, with fans wishing it’d be released just to see if it lives up to the infamy.

Benioff and Weiss haven’t been shy when it comes sharing how wrong it all went, even admitting their friends didn’t pick up on the fact Cersei and Jaime were brother and sister, much less twins. But just how bad was it? According to the most recent episode of screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin’s podcast Scriptnotes, it was really, really bad.

Benioff and Weiss stopped by to discuss their process when writing script for Game of Thrones. But it didn’t take long before the story of the original pilot came up, as Craig Mazin was one of the few people who saw the episode in all its horrible glory. Beginning around the 35 minute mark is when Benioff and Weiss take a stroll down memory lane:

     D.B. Weiss - “Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life, like appendicitis [bad]. As soon as it finished, Craig said…
     Craig Mazin - “You guys have a massive problem.”
     David Benioff - “I was taking notes and I had this yellow legal pad. I remember just writing in all caps ‘MASSIVE PROBLEM’ and underlining [it]. All I saw from then on that night was MASSIVE PROBLEM.”

If you want to see what the alleged differences were, io9 has a breakdown of the script.

After such a terrible first outing, Mazin didn’t hold out much hope for the premiere. His reticence turned out to be unfounded. The massive reshoots and reconfigurations rescued Game of Thrones from being a dumpster fire. Mazin was stunned at the turnaround:

“[I told Benioff and Weiss] ‘That is the biggest rescue in Hollywood history.’ Because it wasn’t just that they had saved something bad and turned it really good. You had saved a complete piece of s—t and turned it into something brilliant. That never happens!”

If you’d like to hear the entire podcast, including how every script for the season has to be turned into before Game of Thrones can begin shooting footage, head over here!

[Via Vanity Fair]

Mom. Wife. Geek. Gamer. Feminist. Writer. Sarcastic. Succinct. Donna has been writing snark for the Internet in one form or another for almost a decade. She has a lot of opinions, mostly on science-fiction, fantasy, feminism, and Sailor Moon. Follow her on Twitter (@MildlyAmused) for more of all these things.